Flaring at Mossmorran could continue until ExxonMobil reopens, according to Shell UK Mossmorran plant manager Teresa Waddington.
At an environment and protective services committee on Thursday, councillors were given a presentation from the gas giant over the recent flaring from the plant.
Councillors were told that due to Exxon being the only current customer for ethylene, the plant had no choice right now but to burn the gas off while Exxon is shut down.
ExxonMobil shut down its ethylene plant in mid-August after the failure of two of three of its boilers. They are unsure when the plant is expected to reopen.
At the meeting, Ms Waddington said: “I’m not sure I can answer on definitive timelines of flaring. We are currently looking at a multitude of different projects for the ethylene, some of which are commercially sensitive.
“I can’t say if we will see flaring for the duration of the outage, it depends on the temperatures, if more people are using heating due to cold temperatures and need for gas continues. But I can’t predict what the overall profile will look like.”
Shell at Mossmorran currently produces 30 per cent of the UK’s natural gas supply.
Councillor Darren Watt, local member for Cowdenbeath, said that the council was there to hold the plant to accountability, adding: “No one cares if it’s Shell or Exxon flaring – they care that they’re being woken in the middle of the night.
“Residents have been told that it’s been shut down, but clearly it’s not.”
Ms Waddington said that she could only speak for Shell and there had been “miscommunication” in what a shut down actually meant.
She added that Shell had been in communication with Exxon to try and get the plant up and running as quickly as possible, saying: “We have continually been asking them if there is anything we can do to help them get back up and running sooner. We obviously want them to be back up and running as soon as possible.”
After the meeting, Cllr Watt added: “I’m very grateful to Teresa Waddington from Shell for taking the time to address our concerns, however like ExxonMobil, it appears Shell are being reactive rather than proactive.
“Shell have essentially been escaping the negativity around Mossmorran operations but they are in partnership with ExxonMobil and one cannot fully operate without the other.
“Shell have committed their long-term future to the area but it is absolutely clear both plants need serious investment and upgrades. We have heard many assurances from both companies but words are not longer enough.
“We need to see some meaningful action that’ll minimise the social, health and environmental impacts to the surrounding communities.”